TOKYO – While officially Russia is banned from this year’s Olympics for running a state-sponsored doping scheme, its athletes are still competing under the ROC, or Russian Olympic Committee. Their participation in the Tokyo Games has drawn criticism from some.
Four-time Olympic rower Megan Kalmoe, a member of the U.S. women’s pair that reached the B final, tweeted her frustration following the A final about Russian competitors Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia. The Russian pair took silver.
“Seeing a crew who shouldn’t even be here walk away with a silver is a nasty feeling,” Kalmoe wrote. “Really disappointing overall and I feel for the other athletes in the A Final. Big love to all my friends and frenemies who gave it everything out there.”
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The U.S. pair raced against Russia in the semifinal on Wednesday in which Russia took second and the U.S. placed fifth. The top three crews advanced to the A final, so the U.S. didn’t lose out on a spot due to Russia’s finish.
Following the finals, Kalmoe elaborated on her tweet to row2k.com.
“Well, I just posted on Twitter a couple of things that I’m sure some people will be upset about, or maybe they won’t,” Kalmoe said. “But I think a lot of people in this field are very, very classy women who are probably a little bit too polite to say some of the stuff that I’m willing to say, especially because I wasn’t in the A-final, and also because Russia beat us by enough places in our qualifier that they didn’t take a spot from us, but having them here and having them walk away with one of the medals was really hard for me to watch.
“I don’t think that they should have been here, and there are a lot of women here that I think were very qualified to win one of those medals, and them not having that opportunity because that boat was here was very problematic for me as a competitor.”
Kalmoe’s comments come in the wake of two members of the Russian men’s quadruple sculls testing positive for a banned substance. Because the cases were from out-of-competition testing in June, the boat remained qualified for Tokyo and was permitted to swap in other rowers.
However, the Russian Rowing Federation decided the two potential substitutes weren’t suited to compete at the Olympics. Russia withdrew the boat and the International Olympic Committee awarded the spot to Lithuania on July 18.
After arriving in Tokyo without a proper build-up in training, the Lithuanian crew placed eighth, last in their competition.
Russia has 335 athletes competing in Tokyo and has earned 25 medals total so far – seven gold, 11 silver and seven bronze.